Leading by Example

Reader and commenter "Matthew" linked us to this post at the DesiringGod blog which, IMO, is stellar.

And it leads by example. Anyone care to advocate that this approach to the question being handled is not helpful or not relevant or not edifying?

I didn't think so.

Q and A with cent

I've been reading your comments about Pastor Mark Driscoll, and I think you need to think about whether you have the authority to make these kinds of comments. For example, you're an advocate of the slogan, "he should repent or step down." How do you justify making such comments?

I justify them as opinions -- not ecclesiastical decisions. There's a vast difference between saying that Mark Driscoll needs to repent or step down (an opinion) and marching over there with a bunch of sandwich-board-wearing librarians and actuaries demanding that Mars Hill Church turn out its pastor and elders.

Others have asked me, btw, whether this is a private matter between MHC and MD. The answer is "no". It stopped being a private matter when Pastor Driscoll wanted a global pulpit. If these were shenanegans going on inside MHC, we could just decide that they're like GUTS Church in Tulsa and ignore them as a group of people using the Bible for their own private purposes. When MD started looking for wider acceptance, he opened the door to wider scrutiny as well.

And let's keep in mind that my blog documents a history of mixed feelings for MD and his ministry. I'm not hardly his biggest fan, but I have never been an outright denier of his methods. However, the masturbation joke on Hughley was simply too much.

And let's be clear: this is about one or two specific incidents which, frankly, anyone who is a Christian ought to be ashamed of -- let alone a pastor speaking as a pastor representing his church and the Gospel.

Does this situation only get worse when you yourself admit (as you have) that you aren't qualified to be an elder?

Nope. Nobody got their nose out of joint when I started blogging and did an 8-part reproach to Tony Campolo for his gross misrepresentations of Calvinism and conservative evangelical christianity. This is not one iota different.

Doesn't a fight like this detract from the declaration of the Gospel?

I think that's a clever repositioning of this matter. See: what's at stake is not, "Does Mark Driscoll preach the (reformed) Gospel?" What's at stake is whether there are qualifications (and therefore disqualifications) for the place of an elder in a local church.

If an elder was stealing or sleeping around, I hope nobody would bat an eye when the least of us opined that he was no longer qualified. It seems to me that a pastor who commits other disqualifications -- such as telling dirty jokes to score points on Hughley's show -- and then refuses to publicly repent has disqualified himself. The really, really crazy thing is that I haven't seen anyone really dismantle that.

Was it a dirty Joke? That is, would you tell it in a place where you were seen as an advocate for the Gospel? If the answer is "yes", then I think there's a lot more leg work for the FOMD (Friends of Mark Driscoll) to work out than they are doing right now.

Are you adding to the Gospel by demanding that Mark Driscoll obtain some level of sanctification in order to keep his pulpit?

This is an interesting ploy -- one being promoted by MD himself in his Gospel Coalition talk. That is: those who think that his filthy talk needs more work than a shrug of the shoulders are somehow detractors of the Gospel, adding works to what Christ has done.

That only works if what people like me are saying is that Mark Driscoll is not a saved person. I'm not saying that -- I wouldn't bother saying that. I'm saying that being saved is not the criterion for elder which is in-play here.

The question is if telling a dirty joke in public is an offense, and if it is should a pastor who tells one specifically repent?

Isn't the standard for propriety culturally affected? That is, isn't it wrong to judge the joking of a pastor in Seattle by the standards of Oklahoma, or Tennessee, or Little Rock, or what have you?

That's an interesting proposition. See: someplace where MD and I would agree is complementarianism -- which is a Biblical standard. That stand, which requires male elders for the local church, doesn't go over very well in Seattle because it is anti-cultural. It is part and parcel of preaching the Gospel because it is a substantive part of the theology of marriage. If one has his soteriology all properly unpacked, but he doesn't have this unpacked properly, he goes right off the rails.

Let me say plainly that this is equally true of coarse jesting -- as exemplified in Eph 5 and Titus 1. So that standard is not "what will they accept in Crete" or "what will they accept in Seattle", but "what does the Bible proscribe?"

What has happened here is that the Bible has proscribed some behavior which Mark Driscoll has frankly embraced. It's not wrong to point that out, and it's not wrong to say it's not pastoral to do those things. It is also not wrong to apologize for doing such a thing in at least an as-obvious way as the mistake/error was made.

And do you know what would cover 80% of the gap between my objections and what has already happened? A simple, public retraction of the behavior. "I was wrong to make a masturbation joke on national television as it was a violation of how Scripture tells all people, let alone pastors, to behave." That ends nearly all of the core controversy.

It's not hard to say you're sorry and you're wrong -- unless you don't believe you are either. And it is in that latter state of mind that all the other concerns gather around.

Thanks for asking.


Anyone else notice that JT didn't leave the comments open for this post?

I don't mind. You can leave your comments here.

In Other Words

This week was a tricksy week to be travelling and mostly disconnected from the internet, but this comment came up at the meta at Challies’ blog over the lurid language complaint John MacArthur has made against Mark Driscoll, particularly about how we read poetry:
I think the question of the extent one talks about sex is one issue, but I don’t follow you on the interpretation of poetry. Would you make this a general rule that poetry should not be interpreted line by line?
And what bothers me about this statement is that it was made by Justin Taylor, who is what I would call an erudite guy – well-read, and an editor of some significant note. He knows something about this subject.

I’m going to answer his question three ways here. In other words, I’m going to find three ways to think about this, the first is by pointing out a poem to you:
    Call the roller of big cigars,The muscular one,
    and bid him whip In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
    Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
    As they are used to wear, and let the boys
    Bring flowers in last month's newspapers.
    Let be be finale of seem.
    The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

    Take from the dresser of deal,
    Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
    On which she embroidered fantails once
    And spread it so as to cover her face.
    If her horny feet protrude, they come
    To show how cold she is, and dumb.
    Let the lamp affix its beam.
    The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.
This is the brilliant poem, “The Emperor of Ice Cream”, by Wallace Stevens. Now I ask you: as a general rule, should a poem be interpreted line by line?

Why yes: of course it should be interpreted line-by-line. It’s a poem. In some cases, it is worth interpreting word-by-word. But, what are we interpreting for? What are we seeking to gain from the interpretation?

See: I use this poem because, frankly, it is far more sexually-explicit than the Song of Solomon – far more intentionally sensual as it is about a funeral in whore house. But does that give us a mandate or even the natural liberty to expound on what “the roller of big cigars” means in the crassest terms? Can’t a cigar simply be a cigar?

So if we would, for the sake of merely being literate people, not have to talk about all the implications of big, brown hand-rolled cigars when speaking of a poem written by an agnostic secular writer, why would we want to require ourselves to expound on images which we think we see in the Song of Solomon?

So that’s way #1: unpacking every possible nuance of a sexually-charged poetic passage is not even nearly-profitable.

Way #2 would be this: not every poem is written for the same purpose. For example, and I think Challies did this already, when you think about the poem Psalm 119 and then the poem the Song of Solomon, one is a didactic and exalting poem about the purpose of God’s word in the life of the believer, and the other is a wedding poem, exalting the groom and the bride.

So it would serve the reader well in the didactic poem to make sure all the explicit nuances are grasped, but in the wedding poem, which is occasional and not meant to be instructional but in fact respectful and honoring, I think it is easy to see that as the apostle Paul said, things of lesser honor being given greater honor by covering them up. And there is no analogical rosetta stone for the reader of the song of Solomon to tell us how certain passages correlate to body parts or whether it is merely emotional and relational gratification the writer is “really” talking about.

As to the third way: it’s a fundamental error to ask a reductive question like this, and I am afraid Justin knows it. “All poetry”? Really – there’s a rule for reading “all poetry” which is an adequate stand-alone rule?

I like Justin. He and I have correspondences which always sharpen me, and I hope they sharpen him. But I think the path he is taking here in redressing Challies’ post and point of view is, frankly, not his best work.

Your opinions may vary.

While I'm thinking about this ...

... by analogy, does anyone remember the Mark Driscoll sermon in which he showed a Joel Osteen video in order to criticize and condemn his message?


He says Joel Osteen's message excludes God. A brother in Christ, he says, preaches a message which excludes God.

WOW! Where was the grace and tone police when he said that?! Naming names? How can that be full of the Gospel?

Geez. And I thought the Ecclesiastes joke was offensive. I may never be the same again.

Best of -- Steadfast Love

OK -- so we get it, right? God shows mercy to Jonah, and to Ninevah, and then Jonah is a bit of a twerp about it and gets huffy. If it were right to say this about God, I would say He snarks Jonah about his attitude, but it's not right to say that about God -- so we'll say that God chastizeth Jonah, and chideth him with the holy sarcasm. And Jonah, after two doses of the holy sarcasm, snarks God and says, "yes, it suits me fine to be this angry, and I'm angry enough to die.

But why is Jonah so worn out again? First, it's because God is steadfast in love to the enemies of Israel -- to the Assyrians, whose king lives in Nineveh. But as if that wasn't bad enough, Jonah also had this vine that God "appointed" (what a curious word) to give Jonah shade, and God "appointed" a worm (again -- curious) to kill the vine, and then God made it even hotter than before with a wind hot with the hotness of hot that He controls because, of course, God is God -- sovereign, omnipotent, holy, just God. So Jonah is twice-vexed (that's "vex-ed" for those who cannot read the KJV) over God -- first for not killing the Ninevites (whom Jonah hates), and then for killing the vine (for which he was exceeding glad, again from the KJV).

Now, this is God Jonah is talking to and mad at. Jonah is mad at God because God proved His love for sinners by sparing the repentent Ninevites and then killed a vine which God appointed in the first place. God. The God for whom we ought to have the highest view, and always keep His glory in sight. Yahovah God. Elohim. El Shaddai. Addonai. Yahovah-Tsidkenu. Yahovah Sabaoth. Kadosh. Shaphat. El-Gibhor. "Sh'ma-Yisrael-Adonai-Elohaynu-Adonai-Echad" God.

And Jonah is mad at Him. You'd think that Yahovah would have something to say about that -- because when Job is mad at Yahovah-Tsidkenu, He (God) makes a little bit of a scene and makes Job -- the righteous man Job -- give an account for himself.

But Yahovah has something else in mind here, because He says this instead:

    Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night: And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?
God says this -- in Hebrew anyway, if not the KJV English. And the first thing which is clear here is that God is a little concerned that Jonah has all this good tidings for a weed which appeared out of nowhere.

Listen: Jonah didn't build his booth under a shady spot and God took it away in a kind of tug-of-war. Jonah was sitting there skulking over the Ninevites in repentence, and God grew a vine up there -- if we take the text seriously here -- overnight one night to give Jonah a little respite, and Jonah "had pity of the gourd". That is, this thing which appeared out of nowhere, and like the grass it withereth, and the flower thereof it falleth away, Jonah got attached to the vine. But somehow, Jonah can't get excited about the sinners in the city. He's all angry eyebrows at God for being steadfast in love.

That's sort of jarring, if you're reading this story with me. Jonah, says God, cares more about the weed than he does about people -- because the weed makes him feel good (or better, anyway), and the people make him mad. And listen: God says that Jonah's "pity" is a pity for something which he never raised a finger to see come to this place. The weed came out of nowhere, and Jonah thought it was dandy, but Jonah had nothing invested in the weed.

But God doesn't stop there. He says to Jonah, listen, little fella: it's one thing for you to be attached to the weed which you didn't do anything to nuture, but look at that city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand. (For you who cannot count in King James, "sixscore" is 6 x 20 = 120, so 120,000 people)

The implication is not that this city sprung up out of nowhere and suddenly God pitieth it: the implication is that there are 120,000 people in there, and God has been working on them a long time. The contrast is that Jonah can have pity on this thing which is just hay waiting for the baler, but then shouldn't God -- who has been working on this city a long time, because He's El Shaddai, Addonai, Yahovah-Tsidkenu, Yahovah Sabaoth, Kadosh, Shaphat, El-Gibhor, "Sh'ma- Yisrael- Adonai- Elohaynu- Adonai- Echad" God -- have some kind of pity on these people upon whom He has been working a long time.

You know: steadfast in love kind of working. The kind of work Jonah accuses God of doing in the first place. God's mouth is here telling Jonah -- and us -- that we ought to check ourselves if we think that God doesn't have enough love. We are the ones who do not have enough love -- because let's face it: we are like Jonah. We are the ones who are somewhat enthralled with the idea that God is coming to knock over the idols in everyone else's temple, that God is going to pour out the winepress of His wrath on the unjust. We think we will be his Beautiful feet, and everybody else is going to get under the footstood of the Lord.

But God says, "I have spent a lot of time -- which I created, btw -- in steadfast love for these people. For the ones you think are ready for the threshing floor." Somehow Paul was willing to say

    in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God
but we find ourselves unwilling to implore anyone or imply that Christ is making this appeal to every man, woman and child.

And for what? Seriously -- what is the issue? That God is not Holy? That God is not Just? That God is not Creator and can do as He sees fit? Dude: what God sees fit to do is offer an appeal to all men, and that appeal is to be reconciled unto Himself. It is exactly equal to and demonstrative of the same principles inherent in declaring, "repent and be saved!" Be reconciled to God!

Those people over there in that city which has historically tried to kill us and trash the name of God. Those people over there who think that think pornography is a valid form of entertainment. Those people in that city where sin is named as a virtue. Those people who are no different than us, except that God has sent us to them.

We can sit here, with God asking us, "so is that anger good for you? How about that weed that is dying which you thought was cool -- being angry about that is good for you, too?" Or we can throw our arms around this God, this Lord our Righteousness, the Lord of Hosts, The Holy One and Judge, Mighty God, -- and one more who for the ones who don't have a full scorecard yet: this resurrected Lord and Christ, born of a virgin, who did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men, and who humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross -- and say to Him, "you're working that long and hard, but I'm not gonna tell them you love them. You only love me -- well, us. You only love us, the ones who are already saved to eternal life."

Can you do that? I can't do that. I'm going to be in the Lord's house on the Lord's day with the Lord's people -- including the ones which are in church right now, who got baptized by accident, but don't actually have the Gospel. Because God loves them, and to say otherwise sounds like I care more about the leaves I still have to rake up in my yard than it does about the appeal God is making to people.

That's not an argument, btw: that's what I'm going to do. You choose for you, and when Jesus comes back, we can ask Him whether we should have been more cautious about whether we could tell people that the Cross is a sign of love to all people.

We break into the BOC ...

... to bring you these updates:
  • Only in Canada can you get rip-roaring high-speed internet but not a cell phone signal. And not just any Canada: North-40 Canada. Where there is still a lot of snow on the ground.
  • It's going to come out eventually, so I might as well let you know: John MacArthur called that Scotland talk Mark Driscoll gave on the Song of Solomon "rape" of the word of God [no links for you -- I can't bring myself to do it]. This is apparently bad behavior on Dr. MacArthur's part.
  • On the other hand, if Josh Harris delivered either that Scotland talk or the Ecclesiastes joke on D.L. Hughley, does anyone think C.J. Mahaney would not call him the very next day? And what would Josh do after CJ called him, one wonders?

    And what would happen to Josh if he didn't actually do what we all know he would do?

    So why is there a different expectation for Mark Driscoll?
  • I'm wondering if I'm a watchblogger for believing that sometimes you just have to take your lumps and say you're sorry and actually be sorry and repent of your mistakes which might also be sins. And for wondering what kind of person won't do that. Is that what a watchblogger is -- someone who's willing to ask the question?

Thanks. Back to BOC.

UPDATED: Irish Calvinist gets it right.

Best Of -- Art Markers & Oil Paints

I know a lot of people wish I would shut up more often. For example, my wife would be very happy if I didn’t blog anymore because she thinks the whole thing is creepy. She’s probably right, as usual, but if I didn’t blog this stuff she’d have to talk to me about it, and I know factually she doesn’t like to read non-fiction, so talking about non-fiction is mostly out of the question.

Anyway, Phil Johnson linked to a very long and stimulating essay by N.T. Wright about the current British whoopla over the atonement, and I liked that essay pretty well. But, of course, what’s a blog if it is only gushing praise? The good Bishop said this at the beginning of his essay:
In any case, I am one of those who think it good that the church has never formally defined 'the atonement', partly because I firmly believe that when Jesus himself wanted to explain to his disciples what his forthcoming death was all about, he didn't give them a theory, he gave them a meal. Of course, the earliest exponent of that meal (Paul, in 1 Corinthians) insists that it matters quite a lot that you understand what you are about as you come to share in it; but still it is the meal, not the understanding, that is the primary vehicle of meaning. What is more, I happen to believe, as a reader of the New Testament, that all the great 'theories' about atonement do indeed have roots there, and that the better we understand the apostolic testimony the better we see how they fit together.
And let’s be honest: I usually steer clear of getting into the boat with N.T. Wright because he’s a lot more, um, esoteric than I tend to be. He paints with a variety of brushes, and he has an oil palate; I tend to have a fat black Sharpie and 16 very nice Pantone-numbered art markers because I’m doing this for a less-refined audience.

Before we begin with the comic book characters and the angry eyebrows, this essay by Wright has a lot to appreciate. For example, he makes a fine point about the caricatures of the atonement which many people reject rather than considering the actual atonement presented in Scripture – and as far as he goes here, I’d have to agree with him. His consideration of the very poorly constructed “is God a child abuser?” objection to the manner in which God deals with sin through Christ at the Cross has a lot of good in it. And his view that the atonement has more to do with love than wrath in an interesting perspective, even if I can’t wholly say, “that’s exactly what I’d say about that.”

So if you have two days to read this essay 2 or 3 times and think about what’s good in it and what’s bad, I recommend it for your information and intellectual physical fitness.

Which leads me to this statement I have cited, above. You know: I feel tortured sometimes when I read these really smart guys because (IMO) they frequently know exactly what they are saying, but they say it in terms which are intentionally controversial. That probably says something about me because a lot of you feel that way about what I do here. Anyway, when Bishop Wright says something like the above, it sort of makes me want to check all of his good work to see if the mistake he makes in this one piece of bad work isn’t there in some genetic mutation.

Here’s what I think: I think somehow N.T. Wright, who has an extraordinarily- robust view of the operation of covenant and teleology or purpose in the work of Jesus Christ, here suddenly becomes a one-note wonder – a guy who, after berating all kinds of people for being reductive or dismissive or careless, fumbles the NT in a sort of reductive way.

Listen: I can buy, in general theological terms, into the idea that the meal, the table, is the central act of worship – that it has some analogical rather than propositional value in promulgating what the NT repeatedly calls “the Gospel”. I think there’s no question to that at all. And I think that in any case, however we perceive the relationship of that analogy to ourselves, we are demonstrating our identity in Christ by doing that in memory of Him. Amen?

I can also stand next to, without feeling all weird, the idea that somehow God’s promise to Abraham is fulfilled in Christ because of, or perhaps in spite of, the fact that Israel failed to do what Christ was able and willing to do. I think that’s a good enough covenantal view as long as you don't start demanding that it is definitive or exclusive – but I think it also has some problems in that as far as the covenants go, Israel was willing to do the “temple” work of the covenant, but wasn’t willing to do the “circumcision” work of the covenant. That is, God’s complaint with Israel turned out to be that he didn’t want sacrifice so much as He wanted obedience, and right-heartedness. It’s funny how Israel was willing to do all kinds of religious observance except, as Jesus pointed out to the Pharisees, the “the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness”.

But I have a problem when Bishop Wright – or anyone – reduces the object of the Gospel to the Lord’s table, especially when he says, “when Jesus himself wanted to explain to his disciples what his forthcoming death was all about, he didn't give them a theory, he gave them a meal”. That’s a somewhat non-linear and non-comprehensive view of how Jesus spoke about being the Christ Himself.

For example – and I would agree with Bishop Wright that many people can’t find the Gospel in the Evangels, nor do they try – it is presented in Mark 8 and again in Luke 9 and Matthew 16 that when Jesus asked the Apostles, “who do you say that I am,” and Peter, prompted by the Holy Spirit, says, “you are the Messiah”, Jesus doesn’t say, “Now take this bread and eat it, and drink the cup of the new covenant.” Luke’s robust version of what comes next is

    And [Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly.
It was to that point which Peter, apparently not listening to the Spirit of God anymore, rebukes the Christ of God!

Why rebuke Jesus if Jesus isn’t expressing something – which I think is treated unjustly if we call it a “theory”, since it is God’s view of God and not some inductive piece of analysis – of a particular, propositional nature which is either offensive or confusing?

And that’s really not all there is to it. On the road to Emmaus, after the resurrection, Christ says this to Cleopas in Luke 24:
    O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?"

    And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
Think about that: Christ did, in fact, give them a “theory” about what just happened – and more than a “theory”, but in fact the interpretation of the Prophets and Moses as to what the work of the Messiah was to be.

And before this gets away from us in the meta or at someone else’s blog, the question of what happens at the end of this story of Cleopas is critical – because someone is going to pull a J.D. Crossan on us and say that only after the meal did they know Christ himself. Listen: when Cleopas comments to his companion about what Christ told them on the road as he interpreted Moses and all the Prophets, the question was not, “is this a parable about Jesus,” but “wasn’t this man about to tell us what God has promised to do and now has done?” It is not the meal which reveals to them Moses and the Prophets: it is the words of Christ, the explanation he gives them of the Scripture.

Christ was not just a performance artist. Christ was about being the Word of God. That means He was about doing what God set out to do, and, as He said explicitly in the sermon on the Mount, to fulfill the Law.

It is reductionistic to try to read the rest of the NT through the lens of one ordinance. That’s why it’s wrong to hang so much on baptism; that’s why it’s wrong to hang so much on the eucharist. Those things are consequential, not principle.

Maybe – just maybe – my problem is that I’m a comic book guy and Bishop Wright is painting frescos in a cathedral, or very nuanced portraits in a baroque style. But when we read things like this, I wonder if he’s really trying to represent the subject he’s painting at all.

Best Of -- Before and After Us

Quoth iMonk:
Two key bits from Stetzer:

1) Missional refers to the specific activity of the church to be a counter-culture, building the Kingdom in ALL settings where its members find themselves, not just to build the church and its programs, facilities, etc.
I agree. No question -- and we face a terrible problem in this because we live in a post-Christian culture. We are going from a place where the context of Christianity is evident in the culture to a place where Christianity is seen, in the best case, as having jumped the shark, and in the worst case, has been disproven by some quack with a couple of stone ossuaries bearing the most common names of the day.

So given that we need to be kingdom-building, what does that look like? Is it programs and daycare centers and baseball leagues and 10,000 member communities which are aping the external culture -- or is it something else?
2) There can be no doubt that any church that is true to its calling is thoroughly, consistently and unapologetically missional by the above definition.
I think that this is a relatively-new insight. Maybe that's the wrong word: this is a truth about the church which was lost sometime after the third century (paint with wildly-broad and careless strokes).

My widdoo heart went pitty-pat when Dr. Stetzer cited the letter to Diognetus -- because that letter was a foundational document for me to start blogging. When I read it for the first time, I realized that there was something mostly-wrong about how we, the Christians, view our churches. The idea that the people who changed the world for Christ -- who faced down Rome, and then saved the West from becoming a wasteland when it fell -- were people who, in the end, weren't trying to imitate the culture.

In fact, they were really trying to live without the culture yet inside the culture, if that's possible. All the things the culture held dear were wrong in the face of the cross and the Christians described in that letter behaved as if those things were wrong. They didn't picket them, or protest them, or try to stop other people from drinking alcohol: they lived as if Christ died for sin, and that this message was so important that it should change them. Stable marriages, love of children, unquestionable work ethic, kindness to strangers -- think of that: in an age when people couldn't make reservations at the Holiday Inn, and the rule of law was only applicable if you could find the bad guys quickly (meaning the bad guys worked hard to stay mobile and were usually strangers wherever they went), they were kind to strangers.

But in that, they were winning people over to what they believed because it was obvious they believed it.

And in saying that, let me agree and disagree with something you said in your last answer. On the one hand, I agree that the great reformed minds of the last 25 years, um, pass by the issue of missions and missiology in the way we are talking about it in this exchange. But I disagree that they were not missional at all: there's a context for what they did -- and frankly, they were fighting (and are still fighting) against the second or third generation of heresy and evangelical unbelief from the end of the 20th century. The missiology of that age was (and is) overtly polemical -- and frankly, I'm a child of that school. So I have a great degree of respect and sympathy for these men who have spent their lives on that mission field.

But the truth is this: that field, by their work, has changed. They have won some, and the terms of engagement have changed. Man has not changed; the Gospel has not changed; God forbid that we say that Christ has changed. But the people to whom we have to get this message to have changed.

In the same way it is not profitable to use the KJV anymore because people can't read it, it is not profitable anymore to start a fight in order to win a man to Christ. I'm not saying it never works, but I think it rarely works. Christ didn't die to win an argument -- and He didn't die to make us clever debaters who use words of worldly wisdom to win men to an argument. Christ died for sin, and, as Paul noted to the Corinthians, that puts all wisdom to shame, and catches the clever man in his own cleverness, but it also calls us to be saints, and enriches us in all our speaking and all our knowledge.

So to bring this back to your statement, I think we make a mistake when we try to downplay to roll of those who came before us -- even if they only came 5 years ago. They brought us the church we have, and frankly they brought us the Gospel. Now it's our turn to honor them by bringing the Gospel to the world we have, to treat them both like fellow workers and fathers in the faith. That doesn't mean we have to steal their schtick -- but it means that we will bring the Gospel with the same zeal to this world which is dying.
Is it possible to say that THIS aspect of missionalism is one on which we can (indeed, must) thoroughly agree, and whatever disagreement we have must be about methodology and not mission?
I think it cuts both ways, as I have said to some extent, above. It's somewhat stupid of us to demand that Dad allow us to have a beer (one beer, and maybe not finish it) when we are somewhat critical that he's willing to smoke a cigar or have extra gravy on his taters -- that is, if we want missional freedom, we have to agree that there is missional freedom for all the contexts, including the ones where (and it kills me to admit this) the megachurch seems to work, and LifeWay seems to work, and the Pastor-as-CEO seems to work.

But in that, these models don't work everywhere. In fact, there are a lot of places they can't work. And in those places, the Gospel is still needed -- not a satellite church with a Jumbotron to project the Pastor's face on the wall to save on ministerial staff, but the Gospel. The fact of a personal Christ who died for sin to glorify God and make disciples is far more important that whether it's 12 people on folding chairs in the back room of a bar or 30 people in a park or two families who meet in alternating garages and prayerwalk for their neighborhood.

And all of these are missional expressions. The question is if we can bank on only one of them. If we do, we better start reforming the IMB -- because they definitively still use more than one model to reach the lost in the non-English world.

Best of -- a Pyro Parable

As you have been walking down the cultural street, you have been listening to the organ grinders that you have passed by. Occationally -- perhaps even at random -- you have been handing quarters out to the monkeys, all of whom have tried to bite you. It's annoying, but the monkeys are cute at first glance.

Suddenly, you stop at one organ-grinder because you thought you heard him say "to every tribe" and thought he had shibbolethed. But when you bend down to give his monkey a quarter, you find out the monkey tries to bite you! Why, the OUTRAGE! To show how mad you are, you walk up to the organ grinder and tell him, "Signore, your monkey tried to bite me even though I know you are a Christian."

To which the organ-grinder replies, "He's a monkey; you think I baptized him or something?" And you are somehow appalled that an organ-grinder is using a monkey.

They are all organ-grinders. They are all using monkeys. To get mad at this last one and boycott him when you have boycotted none of the rest for using monkeys is, in fact, arbitrary. It's an organ-grinder problem, not a monkey problem.

Even in 2009

I have this business trip I have to go on, and it turns out that it's to part of North America where you need a passport to get there and it doesn't have reliable internet service.

No, not Smackover, AR.

Anyway, that's why my blogging will be severely impaired the next 10-ish days. I have loaded some "best of" from me for the blog to keep you-all from dying of boredom. Try to go outside and see the people to whom Jesus wants you to do something other than worry about while I'm gone.

You've seen this, I know

Colbert treats Ehrman the way Ehrman really deserves, which is, well, like this:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Bart Ehrman
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorNASA Name Contest

DebateBlog Update

It's been quite an enjoyable time with Stuart regarding Limited Atonement.

Turns out that when it's over, I have one fellow on the hook for an exchange about the inerrancy of Scripture, and another fellow contacted me this weekend calling me a "whore" for believing the doctrine of the Trinity. Both of these should be extremely lively -- we're about to find out that the sky is not shaped like a dome.

Apparently, the D-blog is back. Hope you are enjoying it as well as I am.

What Things?

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

And he said to them, "What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?" And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?"

And he said to them, "What things?"

And they said to him, "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see."

And he said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

A Dangerous Man

The people and their leaders all took Jesus to Pilate and began to bring up charges against him. They said, "We found this man undermining our law and order, forbidding taxes to be paid to Caesar, setting himself up as Messiah-King."

Pilate asked him, "Is this true that you're 'King of the Jews'?"

"Those are your words, not mine," Jesus replied.

Pilate told the high priests and the accompanying crowd, "I find nothing wrong here. He seems harmless enough to me."

But they were vehement. "He's stirring up unrest among the people with his teaching, disturbing the peace everywhere, starting in Galilee and now all through Judea. He's a dangerous man, endangering the peace."

When Pilate heard that, he asked, "So, he's a Galilean?" Realizing that he properly came under Herod's jurisdiction, he passed the buck to Herod, who just happened to be in Jerusalem for a few days.

Herod was delighted when Jesus showed up. He had wanted for a long time to see him, he'd heard so much about him. He hoped to see him do something spectacular. He peppered him with questions. Jesus didn't answer--not one word. But the high priests and religion scholars were right there, saying their piece, strident and shrill in their accusations.

Mightily offended, Herod turned on Jesus. His soldiers joined in, taunting and jeering. Then they dressed him up in an elaborate king costume and sent him back to Pilate. That day Herod and Pilate became thick as thieves. Always before they had kept their distance.

Then Pilate called in the high priests, rulers, and the others and said, "You brought this man to me as a disturber of the peace. I examined him in front of all of you and found there was nothing to your charge. And neither did Herod, for he has sent him back here with a clean bill of health. It's clear that he's done nothing wrong, let alone anything deserving death. I'm going to warn him to watch his step and let him go."

At that, the crowd went wild: "Kill him! Give us Barabbas!" (Barabbas had been thrown in prison for starting a riot in the city and for murder.) Pilate still wanted to let Jesus go, and so spoke out again.

But they kept shouting back, "Crucify! Crucify him!"

He tried a third time. "But for what crime? I've found nothing in him deserving death. I'm going to warn him to watch his step and let him go."

But they kept at it, a shouting mob, demanding that he be crucified. And finally they shouted him down. Pilate caved in and gave them what they wanted. He released the man thrown in prison for rioting and murder, and gave them Jesus to do whatever they wanted.

As they led him off, they made Simon, a man from Cyrene who happened to be coming in from the countryside, carry the cross behind Jesus. A huge crowd of people followed, along with women weeping and carrying on. At one point Jesus turned to the women and said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, don't cry for me. Cry for yourselves and for your children. The time is coming when they'll say, "Lucky the women who never conceived! Lucky the wombs that never gave birth! Lucky the breasts that never gave milk!' Then they'll start calling to the mountains, "Fall down on us!' calling to the hills, "Cover us up!' If people do these things to a live, green tree, can you imagine what they'll do with deadwood?"

Two others, both criminals, were taken along with him for execution.

When they got to the place called Skull Hill, they crucified him, along with the criminals, one on his right, the other on his left.

Jesus prayed,

"Father, forgive them; they don't know what they're doing."

Dividing up his clothes, they threw dice for them. The people stood there staring at Jesus, and the ringleaders made faces, taunting, "He saved others. Let's see him save himself! The Messiah of God--ha! The Chosen--ha!"

The soldiers also came up and poked fun at him, making a game of it. They toasted him with sour wine: "So you're King of the Jews! Save yourself!"

Printed over him was a sign: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

One of the criminals hanging alongside cursed him: "Some Messiah you are! Save yourself! Save us!"

But the other one made him shut up: "Have you no fear of God? You're getting the same as him. We deserve this, but not him--he did nothing to deserve this."

Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom."

He said, "Don't worry, I will. Today you will join me in paradise."

By now it was noon. The whole earth became dark, the darkness lasting three hours-- a total blackout. The Temple curtain split right down the middle. Jesus called loudly,

"Father, I place my life in your hands!"

Then he breathed his last. When the centurion there saw what happened, he honored God: "This man was innocent! A good man, and innocent!"

All who had come around as spectators to watch the show, when they saw what actually happened, were overcome with grief and headed home. Those who knew Jesus well, along with the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a respectful distance and kept vigil.

There was a man by the name of Joseph, a member of the Jewish High Council, a man of good heart and good character. He had not gone along with the plans and actions of the council. His hometown was the Jewish village of Arimathea. He lived in alert expectation of the kingdom of God. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Taking him down, he wrapped him in a linen shroud and placed him in a tomb chiseled into the rock, a tomb never yet used. It was the day before Sabbath, the Sabbath just about to begin.

The women who had been companions of Jesus from Galilee followed along. They saw the tomb where Jesus' body was placed. Then they went back to prepare burial spices and perfumes.

They rested quietly on the Sabbath, as commanded.

Not Greater

Just before the Passover feast, Jesus knew that his time had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now loved them to the very end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, that he should betray Jesus. Because Jesus knew that the Father had handed all things over to him, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, he got up from the meal, removed his outer clothes, took a towel and tied it around himself. He poured water into the washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel he had wrapped around himself.

Then he came to Simon Peter. Peter said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"

Jesus replied, "You do not understand what I am doing now, but you will understand after these things."

Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet!"

Jesus replied, "If I do not wash you, you have no share with me."

Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head!"

Jesus replied, "The one who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not every one of you." (For Jesus knew the one who was going to betray him. For this reason he said, "Not every one of you is clean.")

So when Jesus had washed their feet and put his outer clothing back on, he took his place at the table again and said to them, "Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and do so correctly, for that is what I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you too ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example – you should do just as I have done for you. I tell you the solemn truth, the slave is not greater than his master, nor is the one who is sent as a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand these things, you will be blessed if you do them."

all whom they found

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come.

Again he sent other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.' But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.

The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.' And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, 'Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' For many are called, but few are chosen.

Children in the Temple

Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. He said to them, "The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!"

The blind and the lame came to him in the Temple, and he healed them. The leading priests and the teachers of religious law saw these wonderful miracles and heard even the children in the Temple shouting, "Praise God for the Son of David."

But the leaders were indignant. They asked Jesus, "Do you hear what these children are saying?"

"Yes," Jesus replied. "Haven’t you ever read the Scriptures? For they say, ‘You have taught children and infants to give you praise.’" Then he returned to Bethany, where he stayed overnight.

A small community like that

A man killed all his children, and then himself after finding out his wife was leaving him for another man.

We live in a sorry world, readers. Thank God there is a Gospel to save us from it.

not like God

When Jesus and his disciples were near the town of Caesarea Philippi, he asked them, "What do people say about the Son of Man?"

The disciples answered, "Some people say you are John the Baptist or maybe Elijah or Jeremiah or some other prophet." Then Jesus asked them, "But who do you say I am?"

Simon Peter spoke up, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."

Jesus told him:

Simon, son of Jonah, you are blessed! You didn't discover this on your own. It was shown to you by my Father in heaven. So I will call you Peter, which means "a rock." On this rock I will build my church, and death itself will not have any power over it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and God in heaven will allow whatever you allow on earth. But he will not allow anything that you don't allow.

Jesus told his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. From then on, Jesus began telling his disciples what would happen to him. He said, "I must go to Jerusalem. There the nation's leaders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law of Moses will make me suffer terribly. I will be killed, but three days later I will rise to life."

Peter took Jesus aside and told him to stop talking like that. He said, "God would never let this happen to you, Lord!"

Jesus turned to Peter and said, "Satan, get away from me! You're in my way because you think like everyone else and not like God."

The Lord hath need of Him

And when Jesus had thus spoken, he went before, ascending up to Jerusalem. And it came to pass, when he was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount called the mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying, Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither. And if any man ask you, Why do ye loose him? thus shall ye say unto him, Because the Lord hath need of him.

And they that were sent went their way, and found even as he had said unto them. And as they were loosing the colt, the owners thereof said unto them, Why loose ye the colt?

And they said, The Lord hath need of him.

And they brought him to Jesus: and they cast their garments upon the colt, and they set Jesus thereon. And as he went, they spread their clothes in the way.

And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen; saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.

And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples.

And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.

Philosophy, theism, and Jesus

Forgive the 5-minute plug for Christianity Today.